Apparently “Aria” is one of the hottest new baby names for girls.
I’m happy to tell you that this is a TOTALLY OKAY Baptismal name. There’s a St. Aria of Rome, an ancient Roman martyr. Her feast day is August 21.
The Catalan Santoral site also notes a St. Aria on March 8.
There’s a town called “Santa Aria” in Falcon, Venezuela.
“Aria” was in Strabo and Ammianus as the name of the country around Nisibis and other cities. It was common to name slaves after the places they came from. The name also could be a feminine form of the Greek “Arios” or “Arion” (belonging to Ares). Greek names for slaves were fashionable. In Latin, it means “open space,” like a threshing floor or a courtyard, which doesn’t sound too likely.
Since “Arios” was the Greek name of the heretic Arius, the popularity of a feminine version of his name among post-Arian Christians would probably not have been great, no matter how much they liked the martyr woman. This would explain why the name’s popularity only got big in modern times.
But it is usually thought of as an Italian name meaning “air” or (by an extended sense) “song.”
Similar names include Ariana, Ariane, Arianne, and Ariadne. These are all forms of Ariadne (the Cretan heroine of the story of Theseus, the Labyrinth, and Dionysus).
But there’s a St. Ariadne (feast day Sept. 17) who was a Christian slave in Prymnesia, Phrygia. She refused to sacrifice to idols on her master’s son’s birthday, and was tortured for it. She made a break for it and ran for the hills, and when about to be caught, cried out for the rocks to hide her. She apparently ran into a cave which shut behind her. Some of her pursuers were apparently killed in the process, which rather scared everybody about the power of the Christians’ God. (Phrygia was pretty geologically active, IIRC.)
There’s also a Welsh St. Arianell (“silver one”), also spelled “Arganhell.” (Same meaning, older spelling and pronunciation.) She shows up in the Vita S. Dubricii (The Life of St. Dyfrig) in The Book of Llandaf.
Her father, Gwyddiendyfei (pronounced something like Gwuthienduvei) comes to St. Dyfrig (pronounced Duvrig). He’s desperate, because his daughter Arianell is possessed by a demon.
From The Liber Landavensis, Llyfr Teilo…., page 79 in Latin, translated into English by Rees on page 327.
“As the people were, according to custom, flying for succour to St. Dubricius, and recovering the health of their souls and bodies, there came a certain wealthy man descended from royal ancestors, named Gwyddgeneu, beseeching him on bended knees, that he would release his daughter Arganhell, who was possessed by a demon and was so far afflicted, that when her hands were bound with cords, one could hardly hold her from being drowned in the river, or burnt in the fire, or from destroying everything about her with her teeth.
“O how excellent a thing it is to serve God, Who holds all things by His government, and subjects them to His will! The pious father [Dubricius] having heard his entreaty, prayed to the Lord, and falling to the ground with flowing tears, besought God that by the intercession of St. Peter, prince of the apostles, and of all the saints, he would succour the diseased [one].
“Forthwith, in the presence of her father and relatives, the cords were broken, the evil spirit completely left her, her health and entire reason were recovered, and she received her former state anew, and in every respect improved. She then forthwith acknowledged her own weakness, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, renounced the world; and having preserved the chastity of virginity, and remaining under the protection of the holy man, she led an improved life until she died.”
You can also read about her on page 168 of Volume I of Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Lives of British Saints.
There’s also St. Arianwen Hirflawdd ferch Brychan (aka Arganwen or Aranwen), whose name means “white silver” or “shining silver.” White/gwen has connotations of holiness and beauty in Welsh.
She was married to Iorwerth Hirflawdd according to some chronicles, although maybe it was another Iorwerth or Hirflawdd, because the timing is apparently wrong.